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 “Architecture will come into its own when it becomes thoroughly associated and aligned with the body.” (Madeline Gins and Arakawa)


Architectural Body – IAK Seminar SS 2016



Meetings: Fridays 4-6 at the IAK, Bevenroder 80 Braunschweig – plus 2 Saturday excursions (Hannover and Berlin)

Level: MA and advanced BA

Language: Lecturing in English, texts in German and English, writing assignments in German or English.


Description: This course is searching for an architecture devoted entirely to the body, its needs, its mysteries and its potentials. We will look for touch points in examples of body-based architecture from the distant and more recent past. We will take stock of the modern tradition and the forms of embodiment it has produced over the course of the last 100+ years. And we will engage with recent experimental proposals that would place architecture on a completely different footing, one established by and for the body.

Our goal will be to develop our understanding of how the body experiences space, and how space shapes, or reshapes, the body, including the person and society. In addition to the reading and discussion of texts, we will work throughout the semester to develop and apply techniques of graphical notation supporting the body-based analysis, evaluation and design of spaces. Results will be published in a dedicated online journal (Procedures Journal), and exhibited/demonstrated at the IAK Final Exhibition in July. Excursions to the Sprengel Museum in Hannover, and to diverse spaces in Berlin, will provide concrete matter for discussion and experience.

Students will acquire a familiarity with critical questions of architectural modernism, and with experimental approaches of contemporary architecture and related arts. They will develop a theoretical basis for discussing the relation between body and architecture, for strategizing techniques and for speculating efficacies. And they will practice techniques of spatial analysis and drawing that bring the body, the architectural body, into focus.



1) Body-based spatial analysis/exposé of an existing space (written text with detailed visualizations) – Draft due May 13; final May 28

Task: Choose an interior space in one of three buildings: Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Alvar Aalto Kulturhaus, Zaha Hadid Phaeno. Experience that space completely. Produce a detailed report and analysis of the spatial qualities and properties experienced by a body (your body/others’ bodies) in that space. Format: 3-4 pages A4 two-column text, with visualizations integrated into the layout. Use the most informative visualizations you can find or produce, and structure the text for easy understanding of complex content. Layout and graphic design need not be final, the main focus is on how you observe and record everything going on (happening) between a body and a particular space. Just as important as what you observe about your experience of the space, is the graphical/conceptual system you use to record and communicate the various values experienced there.

The task is a journalistic task. You have been engaged, as expert evaluators of spatial experience, to write an interesting article for an informative/inspiring magazine on architecture and the body. Your surface purpose is to entertain and inform (beautiful graphics, fascinating details; an interesting space worth discovering); your deep purpose is to contribute an answer, based on one concrete example, to the question of how architecture and the body relate.

Find examples: in preparation make a search in libraries, bookstores and online, for books/magazines that might serve as exciting examples of the kind of journal we want to produce, or of techniques for visualizing the body and its relations to space in an effective way. We will collect all these examples as part of a “knowledge bank and bibliogrpahy we can publish along with the magazine.

Pages: (Article 1) (Article 2) (Article 3) (Article 4) (Human Contact) (Article 6)

2) Concept/design for a new space dedicated to the body (concept drawings or detailed model with explanatory text)

3) Publication of (1) or (2) in Procedures online journal

4) Presentation of (2) in IAK Summer Semester Year-End Festival

4) Maintenance of a notebook

5) Attendance and participation


Meetings:  (this schedule is live and in development)


8 April – Introduction – Posing the Question


15 April – What We Know about Space Perception

readings: Exner & Plessner

22 April – The Body after Modernism

readings: LeCorbusier’s “Engineer’s Aesthetic and Architecture” and “Introduction” to Towards a New Architecture

El Lissitzky on Demonstrationsräume and Pangeometry – also here an excellent set of lecture slides profiling El Lissitzky and his project through a wide range of works and collaborations.

(Optional critical piece on LeCorbusier:   “Urban Space, Modernity, and Masculinist Desire: The Utopian Longings of Le Corbusier”, Barbara Hopper, in Embodied Utopias – Gender, Social Change and the Modern Metropolis (eds. Amy Bingamon et al.), Routledge, 2002.

29 April – More Body for More Life

readings: “Brave Light” by Madeline Gins / “The Bubble Around the Body” by Blakeslee and Blakeslee

6 May – No Class

readings: Berthoz: “Sense of Movement: A Sixth Sense?”/ Gibson: 6th Sense / GEOKompakt feature “Der sechste Sinn”

readings: Berthoz: “Perception is Simulated Action” and “Building Coherence” from The Brain’s Sense of Movement

13 May – First assignment due: Analysis of a Space

Special Workshop: – 11:00-15:00 in the Media Room – Sound Space Phenomenology with GUEST ARTIST Jost Muxfeldt

readings: Brian Massumi: “Strange Horizon: Buildings, Biograms and the Body Toplogical”


20 May – No Class


28 May – Excursion: Berlin

readings: Review – Each student please take responsability for one of the texts we have not yet discussed:

1. El Lissitzky Texts, especially “Demonstrationsräume”  2. “Brave Light” by Madeline Gins  3. “The Bubble around the Body” by Blakeslee and Blakeslee 4. “Sense of Movement” by Berthoz  5. (new text) “Strange Horizon” by Brian Massumi

equipment: Dress for the weather – around 22° – cooler in the evening – always with a possibility of rain (10%)

Bring notebooks, drawing implements, cameras, some pocket money and a water bottle.

Dress for the activity – BIKING – i.e. comfortable, close fitting clothing, all belongings in a bag that can be carried easily on the body, leaving your hands free (i.e. small backpack or courier bag)


Day schedule:

Bus: Braunschweig – Berlin  (fare?€) – bikes provided

10:00             Potsdamer Platz – (+ Sony Center) – warm-up, spatial studies

Holocaust Memorial – Eisenman(+ NYT review – 2005 )

National Gallery – van der Rohe – link  –  link link

Jewish Museum – Libeskind (Admission 3€)

13:00            Gleisdreieck  – (park website)

16:00            Berlinische Gallerie – Erwin Wurm, El Lissitzky (Admission 5€)

18:00            Stadtklause

Bus: – Braunschweig (fare ?€)


Assignment after Excursion 28.05.2016:

I would like you to focus this week on processing the materials you produced and collected on Saturday. I would like you each to use the material you have, as well as new drawings and basic text, to produce a “simple” comparative analysis of Eisenman and Libeskind’s architectures (something which could be reduced to two facing pages in a magazine, but which can be longer if necessary at first to complete your idea).

I would like the point of comparison to be the “field of stelae” feature we found in both Eisenman’s monument and in Libeskind’s “Garden of Exile”. In particular I would ask you to compare them in terms of a) the intersection and b) the line in each case – the intersection as a moment on the line. I would like you to use your best visualization to make visible important aspects of the space as you think it is structured or perceived, including, very importantly, effects on the kinaesthetic dimension. The values I would like you to compare for include anything that might be contributing to the architectural/bodily effects you observed in your field research.

Due: Next Friday (a first version)


3 June –


10 June –

Assignment 2 due: Comparative Analysis (Die Stelenwälder von Eisenman und Liebeskind in Berlin)

Confusion vs. Curiosity

17 June –

 Readings: “Landing Sites” from Architectural Body, Madeline Gins and Arakawa, Roof Books 2002

25 June – Excursion: Hannover – Sprengel Museum


1 July –


8 July –


13 July – IAK Year-End Exhibition (and Festival)




Some theoretical texts:

Alain Berthoz, The Brain’s Sense of Movement, Harvard University Press, 2000

Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee, The Body Has a Mind of Its Own, New York: Random House, 2007.

Madeline Gins and Arakawa, Architectural Body, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2002.

Madeline Gins and Arakawa, Making Dying Illegal: Architecture Against Death: New to the 21st Century, New York: Roof Books, 2006.

Angelika Jäkel, Gestik des Raumes: zur leiblichen Kommunikation zwischen Benutzer und Raum in der Architektur, Berlin: Ernst Wasmuth, 2013.

Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002.

Brian Massumi “Building Experience: The Architecture of Perception”

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception, tr. Colin Smith, Londing: Routledge, 1962.

Cognitive Architecture: from Biopower to Noopolitics. Architecture & Mind in the Age of Communication and Information, ed. Deborah Hauptmann and Warren Neidich, Rotterdam: 010 Books, 2010.


Excursions: 2 day-long excursions:

May: Berlin – diverse spaces and events TBD

June: Hannover – Sprengel Museum



Our final publication will appear as Issue 3 of the online journal “Procedures”. Issues 1 and 1+ are online at: proceduresjournal.com



Image: Alan Prohm

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